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Tips for reducing liability while hosting company holiday parties

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With the holiday season approaching, many companies may be planning holiday parties to show appreciation to employees and staff. These celebrations reward employees for their hard work during the year and can go a long way toward boosting employee morale.

But for company party planners, the many benefits of the traditional company party should not overshadow the legal and safety risks that these gatherings can create, especially where alcohol is served. According to one study, 36 percent of employers reported behavior problems at their most recent company party. These problems involved everything from excessive drinking and off-color jokes to fist fighting and sexual advances.

So how do you reduce your legal liability and still have a safe and enjoyable company party this holiday season? Follow as many of the listed recommendations as possible:

  1. If possible, do not serve alcohol. Simply have a catered lunch at the company’s offices.
  2. If you do serve alcohol, use drink tokens or a ticket system or have a “cash bar” instead of an “open bar” to limit the amount of alcohol served.
  3. Invite spouses and significant others especially if you believe that their attendance will make it less likely employees would engage in inappropriate conduct or excessive alcohol consumption at the party.
  4. Offer a wide variety of non-alcoholic beverages.
  5. Always serve food if you serve alcohol. Foods rich in protein and starch tend to slow the absorption of alcohol in the bloodstream where salty and greasy foods may increase thirst.
  6. Make attendance voluntary. If an employee is required to attend the party and is injured or harmed, the employer is more likely to be held responsible than if attendance was voluntary.
  7. Designate managers to pay attention to behavior at the party and to be prepared to act if inappropriate or potentially unsafe conduct occurs.
  8. Before the party, circulate a memo to your entire workforce reminding everyone that your company’s policies concerning workplace harassment and other inappropriate conduct apply at holiday parties.
  9. Limit drinking time to one or two hours during the party or if dinner is served, offer alcoholic beverages only at a reception before dinner and then close the bar. Or, you may stop serving alcohol one or two hours before the party officially ends.
  10. Make arrangements before the party to provide transportation for those employees who are unable to drive after the party has ended.

Following some basic precautions will protect your business and allow you to host an enjoyable party.  Have a happy holiday!




Lisandra Quinones, Human Resources Administrator